You’ve had that Save the Date card on your fridge for months, and now the official invitation is in your hands. While you choose between chicken and fish, you start to do a mental inventory of your closet. What will you wear? The answer may depend on anything from the setting of the event to the special instructions from the couple (perhaps the invitation will give the ‘OK’ to wear cowboy boots or short sleeves). If you don’t get a cue from the bride and groom, here are 10 vital rules to follow as you decide what to wear to a wedding:
1. White Dresses
We’ll just get this one out of the way. If the bride is going to be wearing a traditional dress, that means the guests should not show up in an ivory or cream dress of their own — especially a full-length gown. When the bride is wearing an unconventional color, such as purple or blue, then avoid that color for the day if you know about it in advance. You don’t want to be the reason the videographer keeps forgetting which person just got married.
2. Off-Season Style
The bride and groom will take time to create a certain atmosphere on their special day. If it’s a summer wedding, bright colors and flowy fabrics are likely to be on display. If the event happens during autumn, warm oranges or deep blues are a part of the palate. Don’t show up to a summer wedding in all black or a winter wedding in a bright neon dress.
What you wear to a wedding might not seem important, but remember: Wedding photos are forever (and they’re expensive)! Follow basic etiquette and don’t use your attire call attention from the bride and groom, then dance the night away and have fun.
3. Over the Top Accessories
There is nothing wrong with sprucing up your outfit with a dash of bling, but avoid accessories that are too flashy. Flower crowns, tiaras, and gigantic necklaces are a good thing to save for another occasion. Depending on the location of the wedding, hats and fascinators may be acceptable or even expected — such as at a wedding in London — but don’t overdo it.
4. Wedding Colors
You may think coordinating with the wedding colors is considerate, but it’s actually not a good idea. The bridesmaids are likely to be clad in the wedding colors, and the groomsmen will have a matching tie. If you’re also in wedding colors it might look like you’re trying to become an extra attendant. Being in the same color family is okay, but don’t get matchy-matchy, or you might wind up having an uncomfortable exchange with the bride.
5. Tons of Sequins
Did we mention you shouldn’t try to upstage the bride? Don’t try to upstage the bride. Any dress that would be appropriate for the club or a beauty pageant is probably too ostentatious for wedding guest attire. You shouldn’t be head to toe in sequins. Stick to softer fabrics or dresses with sequin accents that don’t take up a ton of dress real estate. Super tight bandage dresses and 5-inch stilettos are also a bit too attention seeking for a formal wedding.
If you’re going to an island wedding and the invitation tells you flip-flops are a go, you can wear them. In any other scenario they should stay in your hotel room for use later by the pool. Even if you’re at a beach wedding, whether the event is in a ballroom or backyard, flip-flops are just way too casual. Dressier sandals may be acceptable depending on the season and setting. When in doubt, ask the bride or someone in the wedding party.
7. Super Short/Prom Dresses
Anything distracting is not a good choice for a wedding, and dresses cut far above the knee are certainly in that category. Don’t go shorter than just above the knee, and consider the setting when it comes to neckline as well. Church weddings call for modest necklines or a sweater that can be shed at the less formal reception once you start dancing. Likewise, avoid dresses with midriff cut-outs or open backs that expose your bra.
8. Jeans and a T-Shirt
Dark jeans might look like slacks in your bedroom mirror, but they’re still too casual for most weddings (even if they’re ironed). Light jeans are definitely out. In 2017, women wearing fashionable slacks and a blouse is certainly not out of the question, but the move to denim is not wedding appropriate. Men should also avoid denim, even if paired with a blazer. Likewise, even a crisp t-shirt is too casual to be appropriate for a wedding event.
A pop of red in your outfit is a fun way to brighten your attire, and at most parties it’s perfectly appropriate. At most weddings, however, wearing red as a wedding guest may draw too much attention — a softer shade in the same color family is a better choice. If you’re attending an Indian wedding, the bride is likely to be in red herself, so the color is definitely off the table! On the other hand, if you’re a guest at a traditional Chinese wedding a red dress or tie may be welcomed since the color is a symbol of good luck and prosperity, unless the bride wants to wear red herself.
Many dress slacks come in cropped versions, but shorts are not a good wedding attire go-to. The one exception to this rule may be beach weddings, but only if the invitation clearly states that shorts are acceptable. Even a button up shirt and suit jacket can’t make shorts formal enough to fit in at a church or ballroom. When in doubt, err on the side of higher end attire and leave your shorts at home.